Saturday, August 9, 2014

How to Get a Prepaid SIM with 3G Internet

Getting a phone number with a data SIM is cheap and easy in Taiwan. Most people use instant messaging apps like facebook and Line for communication, so having a number with lots of minutes and texts isn't really necessary, and actually can get expensive.

Here, I'll tell you how to get and reacharge a data SIM with about 1gb of data for 10USD. This more than suited my purposes for communication in Taiwan, with more than enough room leftover for online calls, mapping, searching places to eat or things to do, and other basic browsing activities.

TIP: Receiving calls is free, or at least extremely cheap. If you're a bum, have people call you, particularly if they're on unlimited minute plans anyway (every Taiwanese person you meet).

Get the SIM

First, have a GSM unlocked phone, or GSM unlock your phone. This will allow you to use a foreign SIM card in your phone.

Then, go to a FarEastone (遠傳電信股份有限公司 or just 遠傳)  store. Bring your passport. Find an English-speaking rep, and ask for a "pre-paid" data SIM. They will give you several options, just choose the ~500NT prepaid phone. Clarify that the SIM they're giving you can be recharged at 7/11. Stick the SIM in your phone, follow activation instructions they give you, and you now have call and text.

The FarEasTone logo, 遠傳電信FETnet
FarEasTone logo

Get Data

If you call 777, you can listen for a while to find the English option. Once you select this, the robot will always speak English when you dial 777. The way to change to English changed too much for me to accurately record it, so you'll have to find it on your own.

In short, to add a data plan to your phone, dial 777, press 5, enter your birthday in year/month/day format such as 19780203 for a birthday of February 3, 1978. They will give you several very stupid data plans, such as 20 MB for 200 NT. Press 1, then 2, to go with the 1gb plan for 300NT.

300NT will be taken from the available funds on your pre-paid account. Once it's spent, it's locked down. You can use up all the rest of the funds on texts and your internet will keep working until you use 1gb or 30 days passes.

You will have 1gb of data to use for 30 days. After 30 days, your data will cost some absurd amount and drain your remaining pre-paid funds instantly. Ensure to call back and refresh your plan every 29 days.

Recharge Your Pre-paid Account

You'll know you're running out of money for calls and texts by a voice message stating so either in English or Chinese every time you make a call.

To recharge, go to any 7/11. There'll be a small kiosk near their copy/print machine. Follow the visual instructions to get a receipt that you'll later take to the counter:

Step 1 of recharging your pre-paid Taiwanese phone number.
Press the little orange button with a picture of money. 

Step 2 of recharging your pre-paid Taiwanese phone number.
Press the red button on the right. It means "agree," basically. 

Step 3 of recharging your pre-paid Taiwanese phone number.
Make sure to press the correct "1F" button, the one without the red text. For future reference, that's the FarEasTone alternative logo. 

Step 4 of recharging your pre-paid Taiwanese phone number.
Press the far right red button, after ensuring you're only buying one recharge thing. 

Step 5 of recharging your pre-paid Taiwanese phone number.
Take this receipt to the checkout. 
After you take your receipt to the check-out, they'll ring you up, take your money, and give you a bunch of receipts. The longest one is important - don't throw it away like you do with the myriad of other receipts you get in Taiwan. It has your PIN number for that particular charge. Lose it, you lose your money.

Call 777, listen for the "charge phone" option, and follow instructions. I believe it was 2 last I checked, but double check.

They'll ask for that long PIN number on your receipt. Input it as per instructions.

Boom, you now have however much money you bought on your phone's balance. Call and text at your whim.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Get a House in Taipei

After getting a job, your priority should be finding a place to live. Luckily, Taiwan's cost of living is tremendously low, and the city is very convenient to live in.

Typically, foreign English teachers just move into some apartment that's been rotating foreign English teachers for many years. If you want to start from scratch in your own private apartment or deal with Taiwanese realtors, this post isn't for you.

Getting an apartment

Your best, and possibly only, tool will be facebook. Search for "roomates in Taipei" or "apartments in Taipei" to find the facebook groups that foreigners use to trade their rooms when they're moving out.Typically, posts will have the price, some pictures of the apartment, distance to the nearest MRT, and other features. You contact the person through facebook or phone, and schedule a time to visit.

The most typical living situation is in an apartment with one flat rental fee that is split based on room size between the roomates. Generally, you will deposit the rent monthly (for the next month) at a bank.

When I was in Taipei, rent was anything from, per person, 7000NTD - 14000NTD per month.

Moving In

Whether or not you deal with the actual owner of the property is a toss-up. It was 4 months before I was ever put on the lease of my apartment, and that's just because the lease needed to be renewed anyway. Many times, the foreigners just pass the deposit along the line, so you will pay your deposit directly to whoever's room you're moving into. Make sure to get a receipt.


Before deciding on a place, get all of the details. How do you pay rent? Will you be put on the lease right away? How is communication with the landlord? Check to see how far the MRT is, consider your travel route to work every day, if you know where you'll be working already. Ask why the previous person is moving out. Living situations in Taiwan can be very fluid, but it's still important to be guarded.

If this post seems scarce, that's because it really is that easy. I wracked my brain trying to think of anything else you need to know, but honestly, this is it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Get a Job Teaching English in Taiwan

Getting a job as an English teacher in Taiwan is easy. English teachers make a lot of money for very few hours of work. Here's a financial breakdown. I'll go through how to get a job in Taiwan step by step, as well as give general advice for working in Taiwan. If you're looking for the best way to give yourself time and a space to change or find yourself, Taiwan is for you.

Note that this is NOT a guide on how to get an ARC (working permit), merely how to get your foot in the job market. I worked in Taiwan for 7 months before I got my ARC, and some people never get one, so don't worry about that step for now. 

This guide will show you how to get a job as an English teacher in Taiwan.

If you want to go through the process yourself, which will provide more freedom, convenience, and a higher hourly wage, read through the guide. If you want an easy solution with paid airfare, assisted apartment finding, and a guaranteed contract, jump to "The Easy Way Out."

What do I need to work in Taiwan? 
While not all of these things are required, some combination of them are. 

- Fluent English ability
- Passport from the UK, USA, South Africa, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand
- A bachelor's degree
- A CELTA or TEFL certification

Not all of these are required. For example, I have no TEFL certification, but I do have a degree and a US passport. I know teachers here who never went to college, but bought a TEFL certification for 200USD. 

Chinese speaking ability is not required for teaching in Taiwan. Neither is an education degree, nor teaching experience. It is incredibly easy to come here and teach. 

Before you go applying to jobs, some general information will help guide your decision.

The Kinds of Schools in Taiwan

1. Buxiban / Cram School - most foreigners work here. They are a dime a dozen, with names like "Happy American School" or "Golden English Success School." Students in Taiwan get off school at 12pm, and then are sent to these schools for 3-6 hours daily for extra lessons in English, Math, and Chinese. An English teacher's role here is typically to teach 1.5-2 hour classes in Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, and speaking for ages 8-16. Hours are ~15 hours a week, afternoon classes (1-9pm). 

2. Kindergarten - It is technically illegal for foreigners to teach at a Kindergarten. Some buxibans are combined kindergarten/buxibans. If you work here, do not be surprised if you are ask to hide if the government visits, or go to the buxiban area of the school. These are basically day-care classes, with teaching responsibilities being singing, dancing, doing flashcards, and playing games. Many kindergartens ask their teachers to eat with the children, which includes feeding the younger ones. Hours are usually morning, 9a-12p, ~1.5 hour classes, ~7 hours a week. 

3. Private Highschools - These are more difficult to get hired by, as the requirements for certifications are higher. The pay is usually higher than the other schools, but so is the required hours, including office hours, in-class time, out-of-class time, and general responsibility. This is, basically, a more "serious" job. 

The most common practice for English teachers is to work at two buxibans from afternoon until night, or at a buxiban and kindergarten to combine morning and afternoon classes. Know that there are a lot of options available, and choose what times you would most like to have free. 

The Process

The process of applying to a school is typically: contact the school, visit for an interview and demo lesson, then sign a contract. 

The Steps to Getting an Interview 

1. Make a resume. Put a pretty picture of yourself on it. 

2. Go to , click Teaching Jobs. Call every school you are interested in (at least 5) and set up interviews. Send resumes to those who don't have their phone number listed. Phone should be your primary method of contact. Make sure to record in a google doc or notebook which phone number correlates to which school, and the features of those schools. The best practice in Taiwan is to try a lot of schools before deciding. 

3. Search "teaching in Taiwan" in facebook to turn up groups such as "Teaching English in Taiwan," "Taiwan Teaching Jobs," "Taiwan Substitute Teaching," or other similar groups. Call whatever schools put their numbers up there, and keep an eye out for teachers who are leaving the country soon. Chances are the school will be desperate to replace them. 

4. If all else fails, which is unlikely, go to a bar such as Revolver, talk to foreigners, and find a recruiter. A recruiter takes money from you so I wouldn't resort to this step if you can avoid it. Other than that, you might have to start going door to door at schools and asking if there are openings. 

The Interview / Demo Lesson

The demo lesson can be even more intimidating than a job interview back home. Most schools will typically have you fill out a questionnaire or ask some basic questions to make sure you aren't crazy, then throw you into the lion's den - a classroom full of kids, where you will give a 10-20 minute lesson on whatever they happen to be learning at the time. 

If you're unsure what to do, before you start doing demo lessons, ask around if you can observe some people teaching classes. It won't take you long to catch on how to handle a class. The basic premise is, educate the kids with some fun games of some kind. You can google "TEFL games" and "educational games" for some ideas, but really your best bet is to just do some class observations. Some schools may require you to do this anyway. 

After a demo lesson, the school may try to hire you on the spot, but if it's near the end of the semester and they have other applicants, they may want to call you back later. If they try to hire you on the spot, don't sign anything. Say you want to consider other schools first. If they aren't cool with this, you don't want to work there. Typically you can make a school wait 1 week from your demo lesson for a decision before you've closed that door.

You should indicate that you are staying in Taiwan for at least a year, even if you don't intend to. Schools don't like to hire for less than one year contracts. 

The Contract and Working Conditions

The minimum pay you should accept, unless there's some big exception (you're a non-native English speaker), is 600TWD/hour. 

Some schools may ask for you to offer some "free time," like having a 30 minute lunch with the kids. It's up to you whether this is ok. It is very typical for buxibans to require several "holiday parties" per year, which may or may not be entirely paid and typically will eat up a weekend day. These are hard to avoid, I just put up with it in my jobs. 

Some schools in Taiwan require a "deposit" that they will take from your first paycheck. They will retain this deposit if you break your contract early. I wouldn't go with a deposit any higher than 5,000TWD, but that's because I believe the whole concept is absurd to begin with. Other schools will use a contract clause that forces you to forfeit a part of your last paycheck if you quit before the contract term ends. 

Tax is around 6%. If the school doesn't give you an ARC, they don't get to tax you. Make it very clear that you require an ARC if they will tax you. If you don't have an ARC, you are an unreported teacher anyway, and any "tax" is going straight into the pocket of the school owner. 

Health insurance is optional. If you're going to live in Taiwan for at least a year, I'd get it. It's cheap and it makes the already affordable Taiwanese health care system absurdly inexpensive. Only available to those with an ARC. 

Taiwanese culture is very different from our Western cultures, and Taiwanese pay, compared to yours, is laughable. It's best not to rock the boat if you can. If someone asks you to stay an extra 20 minutes to write a report, huffing and puffing about pay will make everybody hate you. Most Chinese teachers work 8-10 hours a day for less of a monthly paycheck than you make working 2 hours a day. By all means, don't allow yourself to be stepped on, but always keep a smile on your face. Remember, worse case scenario, you can always quit and just find a new school in a relatively short period of time.

The Easy Way Out

If you want it really easy, you can apply online, via email, or by phone to one of the major cram schools. They are Shane, Cambridge, and HESS. These will have the most clear guidelines for getting a job and will do most of the busywork for you. They might even provide an airline or housing subsidy after you arrive in Taiwan. However, these schools generally pay less per hour, are located in strange places, and have a sort of soulless feeling. If you are worried about finding a job on your own, though, a major buxiban is the way to go, especially because you can sometimes apply while you're not in the country. 

If you have any questions, post in the comments! I will update this article in the future based on the questions I get. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Getting a Taipei Train Card (Easycard)

Easycard logo

Taipei's subway system, known as the MRT or 大眾捷運 (dàzhòngjiéyùn), is one of the most efficient and effective public transportation systems in the world. There are stations within a kilometer of anything worth visiting in Taipei, meaning travelers and residents can both rely on it as a standard means of transportation. Though taxis are cheap in Taipei, the MRT is so easy, cheap, and fast, there is no reason not to take advantage of it.

Why Bother Getting an Easy Card?

- You get a 20% discount on all MRT rides.
- It's faster than buying tokens for each ride.
- It works on buses, allowing you to avoid embarrassing dropped-change bus disasters.
- Works on various other public transportation, such as the TRA train and Maokong Gondola.
- Necessary to use U-Bikes.
- It's cheap and quick to purchase, meaning you will earn time and money dividends by your first use.
- The card can be refunded for the remaining balance plus deposit, resulting in a net gain of all your        discounted rides.

Purchasing an Easy Card

An Easy Card can be purchased at the Information Counter in all Taipei MRT stations, or in most convenience stores such as 7-ELEVEN, FamilyMart, Hi-Life, and OK. Just say "Easy Card" or "Yo-Yo card" and they should understand. Failing that, show them the picture at the top of this post.

The card costs 500NTD. 400 of that will be in your card, to be used as fare, with 100 being a "deposit." This deposit can be returned, as well as any balance remaining on the card, at the end of your trip.

Most tourists or workers in Taiwan will want to get the adult card, however, if you are a student, there is another card available for you.

Using an Easy Card

At each MRT gate, there is a card-sized sensor with one of these images on it:

Put your card flat on this symbol and the gate should beep and open.

If there is an issue, try a different orientation of the card, flip it over, etc. If you continue to get errors, it's possible that your card has a negative balance, or there is some structural issue. Take it to the information desk.

On a bus, there will be a machine at the front with this symbol on it. Sometimes you will use the card when you get on, other times, when you get off. Observe what the other passengers are doing, but 80% of the time you use the card when getting off the bus.

Refilling an Easy Card

There are large machines, usually next to the Token machines, in every MRT station that allow you to add value to your card. Press the "English" button, sometimes only available after you put your card in or on the machine, and follow the instructions. The Cathay Bank Machines also work for adding value.

A Cathy Bank machine in the MRT

You can also refill your card at any convenience store and at any information counter.

Refunding an Easy Card

Refunding the Easy Card allows you to recoup the remaining balance of the card, plus the 100NTD deposit, minus a 20NTD handling fee. Your money can be gotten instantly if you give the card to any Information Counter in a Taipei MRT station. Otherwise, you can mail it in from a 7/11, but this will cost postage and isn't really worth your time.

More Information
Easy Card Website:

Taipei MRT Wikipedia Page:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting Free Wifi in Taiwan

TPE Free logo, the Taiwan free internet service

Perhaps the most important thing to have in a foreign country is internet access. Armed with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and the internet, your ability to tackle language problems, navigate, and communicate expand far beyond when you lack a net connection. Later I will address must-have apps and other electronic resources, particularly offline ones, but for now, here's how to get wifi in Taiwan, starting from before you get into the airport.

Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world with completely free, nation-wide wifi. It's based in hotspots around the major cities, such as bus stops, MRT stations, even the occasional 7/11. I've found that even buses sometimes have some sort of cellular connection to this wifi network. Across Taiwan, the network is known as iTaiwan. In Taipei, it's known as TPE Free.


Registration is fairly straightforward. The wifi connection points (named either iTaiwan or TPE Free) are not password protected, allowing you to connect at any time with any device. However, your connection will not allow access to the internet. Attempting to access the internet cause a redirect to a login page for the iTaiwan/TPE Free network. Before being able to use the internet through iTaiwan/TPE Free, you need to register with the network.

Registration can be done overseas from certain countries.  If you have a mobile number based in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, USA, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, or Saudi-Arabia, you can register using your phone number before coming to Taiwan. If you're already in Taiwan, obviously a Taiwanese phone number will suffice as well. If you're in Taiwan, but don't have a Taiwanese phone number, I will address another method shortly.

By visiting this link you will be presented with a form through which you can create an account. Simply put in your mobile number, your desired password (make this seriously easy to remember. You're gonna be SOL if you're lost in an MRT later and can't remember your password), and your desired email address, which will double as your login ID. After going through these steps, you should get a verification code. Your success rate may vary. I tried with a google voice number and it didn't work, but don't lose hope, if it doesn't work, there's another way. In any case, after getting the verification code, enter it, click through some more confirmations, and you will be officially registered for the network. Skip to "logging into iTaiwan/TPE Free" if you were successful.

If for some reason that doesn't work out for you, try the following:

Registering at a Counter

If the phone options doesn't work for you, you can register at one of several "counters" throughout the city. The locations are Taipei Songshan Airport, Taipei Man Station, "all major MRT stations," and "tourist attraction sites," as well as many hotels throughout the country. I would bank on Taipei main station. You'll need your passport and email, but don't fear, you don't need email access to activate.

Here is the location of all of the "counters." 
Here is the location of all the hotels. 

The people at the counter generally have a decent grasp of English, and considering that nobody talks to them ever, they are practically desperate to help you. Expect 5-6 people in uniform with enormous smiles talking over each other in excitement over finally having a problem to solve. Get to the counter and they will take care of you.

Logging In

Logging in is a little bit counter-intuitive, but quite simple. The important thing to remember is that the wifi is finicky, and you may need to move around in whatever MRT you find yourself in in order to get a strong enough connection to actually be able to access the login page. In any case, here is a visual guide for TPE free.  Basically, use your device's wifi service to connect to "TPE Free" or "iTaiwan." Then, open your browser of choice and attempt to access "," or whatever website. You'll be presented with a login page. Input your email/telephone/loginID you chose earlier, along with your password, hit "login" or "註冊." If you're not sure, just avoid hitting any buttons with "不" and try to find "同" (不同意 means "don't agree) and "同意" means agree). Be patient, you'll be flipped quickly through several different pages as the network does its thing. When you see "Redirecting..." it's at the final step. It'll land you at a final launch page and you should then have total access to the internet through your browser and other apps.

Finding Wifi

The wifi is pervasive, but far from universal. Mostly, count on it being available at all MRT stations in Taipei. Your results will vary greatly outside the city. Sometimes you can get lucky on a bus or near a 7/11, but I've found these locations to work only rarely. Here is a search tool for every single location, but, like the ubike search tool at the kiosks, this is pretty much useless for a foreigner. There is apparently an app for iDevices and android devices, so you can give that a shot, although whether it works offline is a toss up. The most useful would probably be this overlayed google map, which, amusingly, if you zoom out, shows that the entire city of Taipei is seemingly completely covered by hotspots.

In any case, when in doubt, just find your nearest MRT station.


I've encountered several bugs, and my solutions are as follows:

"Connected" to the wifi point, but unable to access the internet: Could be that your connection is too weak. If you're in an MRT station, try going to another spot. Also, try resetting your wifi antenna, or your device.

Was connected at one MRT station, but not another: You're gonna have to re-login. Hopefully your browser has a "save login information" setting, so you don't have to manually input it every time.

Comment if you encounter any other bugs!


Map of Wifi Hotspots in Taipei:

Search Tool of All Wifi Hotspots:

Wifi Location App:

Guide for Loggin In:

Location of all Tourist Counters:

General Website for TPE Free:

General Website for iTaiwan: